The aim was to use accelerometer data to describe day-to-day variability in physical activity in a single week, according to sociodemographic variables, in mid-aged Australian adults.
Data were from participants in the How Areas in Brisbane Influence HealTh and AcTivity (HABITAT) study who took part in a 2014 sub-study (N = 612; Mean age 60.6 [SD 6.9; range 48-73]). Participants wore a triaxial accelerometer (ActiGraph wGT3X-BT) on their non-dominant wrist for seven days, and data were expressed as acceleration in gravitational equivalent units (1 mg = 0.001 g). These were, used to estimate daily acceleration (during waking hours) and daily time spent in moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA, defined as ≥ 100mg). Coefficient of variation (calculated as [standard deviation/mean of acceleration and MVPA across the seven measurement days] * 100%) was used to describe day-to-day variability.
Average values for both acceleration (24.1-24.8 mg/day) and MVPA (75.9-79.7 mins/day) were consistent across days of the week, suggesting little day-to-day variability (at the group level). However, over seven days, average individual day-to-day variability in acceleration was 18.8% (SD 9.3%; range 3.4-87.7%) and in MVPA was 35.4% (SD 15.6%; range 7.3-124.6%), indicating considerable day-to-day variability in some participants. While blue collar workers had the highest average acceleration (28.6 mg/day) and MVPA (102.5 mins/day), their day-to-day variability was low (18.3% for acceleration and 31.9% for MVPA). In contrast, variability in acceleration was highest in men, those in professional occupations and those with high income; and variability in MVPA was higher in men than in women.
Results show group-level estimates of average acceleration and MVPA in a single week conceal considerable day-to-day variation in how mid-age Australians accumulate their acceleration and MVPA on a daily basis. Overall, there was no clear relationship between overall volume of activity and variability. Future studies with larger sample sizes and longitudinal data are needed to build on the findings from this study and increase the generalisability of these findings to other population groups.